Bol d’Oregon 6 Hour Endurance Race
Bol d’Oregon 6 Hour Endurance Race.
Portland Oregon October 3, 2021.
Awoke early in Portland, before my 6am alarm. I had packed my “race bag” with snacks and race required fire extinguisher the night before. Slipped into my race suit and pulled my hooded sweatshirt over the outside for a bit more comfort during the commute.
Immediately after getting on the Yamaha Wr250 i would be racing I realized I was already navigating my first challenge of the day. Temps in the low 40s and the sun wouldn’t be rising for another half hour.
Cold, darkness, and swift riding out of the suburbs and through the wine country. Thick fog, light traffic, and Mt Hood watching over me as my hands slowly grew numb.
Oregon back roads are simply fabulous, arrived at the Mac Track cold and excited after a very reasonable 50min ride. It brought back many memories of riding in the cold mornings to school when I lived there. Constantly irritated by numbness in the fingers and fog nagging at the inside of the helmet’s face shield.
The Race was sponsored by the SFRC(Sang Froid Riding Club) of Portland. They are a group of motorcycle nuts well known to me. They put on several events per year including The Back 40 (A dualsport ride through some gnarly forest roads), The Alley Sweeper (A dualsport enduro through the unmaintained alleys within the Portland city limits), and other less formal parties/events.
Many of the organizers and participants had stayed over night at the track. As the previous day was an optional track day for participants. I was greeting with warm smiles and crackling fires at the trackside campsite. (Remember, cold. Still pre dawn).
0730: Ate hot breakfast sandwich and cold brew from Safeway. Bought a roast beef sandwich for later in the day.
0800: Race Prep – Pay registration fee, tape off lights, walk track.
0830: Confirm race support is coming (Graham driving down from Portland for the whole day).
-Aside on Graham:
Graham H. Is well known to me. He was a motorcycle friend from when I lived there 7 years ago. He is several years my junior. Kind, of good nature, and quick to lend a hand. He continues to commute and wrench on his vintage Cb450 and was going to drive his classic Civic Hatchback to the event on Sunday.
But nay! His weekend was fated to be more difficult than he anticipated. On Friday night his Honda was stolen, and he was in the middle of a rebuild on his Honda cb. The engine was completely out. I frantically called him Saturday, “Graham, whats going on? Are you out for tomorrow?” Cool as the Dude himself he replied, “No way, I have a backup plan. I’ll make it.
Jump forward to Sunday Morning, Shortly before 9am(when the riders meeting was to happen), I see Graham roll up on a classy Vintage BMW R75 from the mid 70s. This fool pulled a favor from his family and in his words, “Rode a family heirloom” down from the city to be my support guy for the day. Strapped to the back of the machine was my last piece of essential race equipment, a 5 gallon fuel can.
0900: Riders meeting
0930: Tech inspection, transponder testing, and practice laps. Track is HOT.
Bike is torquey, light, and fun as hell. But these Shinko tires are the opposite of grippy. Quickly realize I will be racing according to the limitation of my grip as well as my mental endurance.
1030: Bike fueled, rider ready, le man start queued op on the front straight. 11 bikes, 3 classes, 6 hrs.
-Aside on the Le Mans start:
A Le Mans-style start was used for many years in various types of motor racing. When the start flag dropped, drivers had to run across the track to their cars which were parked on the other side, climb in, start the car, and drive away to begin the race. -Wikipedia
-Boggle the standing start, forgot I left the key in the off position. Ah well, I have hours to recover.
-Goal: manage traffic, learn course, memorize the fastest and safest line I can repeat for hours.
-Realization: Im not fast. I need to turn my shit up.
-Lap 10-20: Damn, Im getting passed way more than I thought. These tiny supermotos are fast as shit!
-Beyond counting laps, my life is the track now. I was born here, I will die here. This is where my life is lived today.
-Looking, searching, getting frustrated trying to find the braking point and entrance point for two of the corners.
-Close to 1 hr my sloppiness pays its dividends: I dump the throttle from the tightest left hander and the back end swings away from the rest of my direction of travel. I feel the bike’s geometry stabilize a slide and then its gone. Im rolling in the grass and boy does my right thumb sting.
-I easily lift the bike (and per the rules) push it back across the infield to the pit for a quick tech inspection. Bike is perfect aside from grass in the frame sliders. I just got a sore thumb and grass stains on my True Hand shirt.
-My Pit man Graham checked on me, It was still so early in the race I didn’t drink or eat or gas. Just got back out there as soon as I could. Probably lost 5-7 laps. (STOP 1)
1130: Time becomes irrelevant, brain decides I will stop when I have physical needs or if I start making mental mistakes. Working hard at this point, increased HR, sweating, fighting through (need to remedy this).
1130: Sure enough, brain starts to misfire. Miss a few braking points and come into the put for mental break and rockstar energy drink. (STOP 2)
1230: Hour 2, feeling like im finally learning the track, 1/3 of the race complete. Finishing feels like a possibility. Elbows up, hammer down, finally getting some good battles with the CBR250 in my class. Passing slower bikes consistently, and being less rattled my the pros blasting around me.
1300: Hour 3 approaching, gas light comes on, a fantastic excuse to pit for a moment and push through to the midpoint. Feeling solid. Graham fills my tank while I pound another rockstar and a bit of gatorade. Still gotta rip that wheelie out of pit lane though. (STOP 3)
1340: RECESS 5 minute intermission for track direction reversal and re-grid according to position.
-Run to porta potty and drain the tank. Inhale gatorade and 3/4 of a hersheys/almond chocolate bar.
-Struggle to re-seat earplugs and almost miss the restart back on the grid.
-Grip it and rip it.
1355: Shit, this is a whole new race track.
Nausea, vertigo, whats happening?! Shit my eyes. I was staring so hard at the “brand new” corners I was actually making myself motion sick. This was a surprise challenge, easily remedied by looking farther ahead through the corners.
Hell yeah, this is a whole new race track! Running clockwise is what my brain was waiting for. Within 5-10 laps I know the braking points and gears I should be using. And I am shredding. The front straight is now a flat out into a hairpin right. I push the shinkos to their absolute braking limit every lap and smile with glee as they chirp and skid in front the main grandstand. Now people can HEAR I’m pushing it to the limit.
1430: Absolutely vibing out here. Brake, shift, feel the toe drag all the way through the corner, smooth on the throttle and wide open when the grip is back. Repeat this pattern until life has lost its luster.
Race is tighter, fewer passes, fewer crashes, everyone is settling in.
Shit- racer from NYC on the cbr250 crashes HARD in front of me on the hard breaking section. I see his body tumble from 60mph to 0 right in front of the grandstand.
I brake, turn in, drag my toe, and wait to life to lose its meaning.
1445: Feeling tired.
-Knees hurt, right hand really hurts, slight headache as well. Back off the pace for a few laps. Thinking. Need to make it through. Come in to pit for a quick mental checkup, caffeine boost. No fuel. <1 min stop. (STOP 4)
1500: Come back out on the track feeling funky fresh, get a little too excited, miss my braking point entirely on the front straight, skid straight through the corner. No drama, point the bike the right way and resume shredding.
1530: Good battles with the smaller bikes, The CBR250 is repaired and back on track. Nice to battle and pass them consistently. Keeps things interesting. Notice the sun is starting to get lower in the sky, also the crowd is growing. Damn, its like a real race with spectators and everything! Come into pit for fuel and caffiene. I jump off the bike and HOLY SHIT my friend Darren is here to cheer me on! Hell yeah! A friend in need is a friend in deed. +10 Stamina just from seeing him standing there. (STOP 5)
1535: Less than 1.5 hrs left. I GOT THIS. Try to push the bike a bit farther knowing Im close. more speed in the fast corners and later braking in the slow corners.
1600: Am I losing it? Are those horses on the track? just beyond the back fast corner I see cowboys warming their mounts. Takes me many laps to decide if these are real or imagined. Somewhere near here I get a really satisfying late braking pass on the fast straight in front of the grandstand. Stuffed him!
1645: Knees are toast, sharp pains reminding me that while my machine is metal I am merely squishy stuff.
1649: Where the christ is that white flag?
1650: white flag! 5 minutes! HAMMER DOWN KIDDOS
1655: Oh thats right, time isnt real. I just live and die on the track today. Keep braking, shifting, turning in and looking for the meaning of life.
-Oh hey! there it is, its over. Checkered flag.
Naturally pop a little wheelie for my friend Darren standing in the pit waiting for me to come in.
-Park the bike, hugs for my pit hero graham and my 1# fan Darren.
-Next person in my face is a lady with a hi viz vest with a patch that I used to own emblazoned with the words “Oregon Emergency Medical Technician.” “Are you ok?”, She breathes with urgency. “Do I look Ok? I feel great!” I reply warmly. “Ive been watching you all day, you barely stopped, did you drink anything?” “Yeah, Gatorade and Rockstar.” I thanked her for her concern and asked Graham to get me some real water to mix in with the gatorade so I could start to properly re hydrate.
Somehow remained vertical. Felt good to stand and not constantly float from ball of foot to ball of foot to ball of foot to ball of foot.
Ended up getting 2nd place in my modern class. I really just wanted to finish the event, so getting a podium was awesome. (Even if my class was only 3 bikes).
For the record, I was the only IRON MAN competitor, and finished the race with 345 laps and 0 penalties. The KTM team that absolutely blitzed the day was 1st overall with 415 laps. For the math, fast bikes were making sub 1min laps, slow bikes like me where making ~1min laps.
360 laps would be running 1 min laps for the full 6 hours without any pauses or breaks. So I feel like I was pretty close to a decent race pace overall.
Got some sweet swag and a trophy. People said nice things about me, felt great. Drank the trophy PBR on the podium. Got wet with champagne. Felt like a dream.
As I was walking away from the crowd two racers got in a fist fight, I turned to my friends in the pit and said “Wait, motorcycle racers getting hot headed after racing all day?! Whattttt? What are the odds.”
Of course, being a complete nut. I saddled up the gear, gave away all the merch I could not carry on the plane back, and rode back to Beaverton with my 1# fan Darren.
2 responses to “Bol d’Oregon 6 Hour Endurance Race”
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Published - May 20, 2019
Cycle World Jap 250s
Impressed once again cycle world mag. You hit another home run. What’s next, an article about my Yam IT250? Shit I miss my cbr250r from NZ. Thing absolutely ripped.
Real impressive man. Pumped you got 2nd place. Wish we did more stuff like this out here.
You son of a gun. This was a great read. You somehow captured the pace in your writing.
Rad stuff. Congrats on killing it.